With two big stories in the news this week about unlicensed acupuncture causing a lung collapse and herbal supplements being pulled from shelves of the big box stores, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at what certifications consumers should look for when looking for acupuncture and herbal medicines. All of this is written in the interest of safety.
When you look for an acupuncturist, the first thing you should look for is whether or not that person is a licensed acupuncturist, not a physical therapist doing dry needling, not an M.D. or Chiropractor with a few weekends of training. Look for the L.Ac, or D. OM credentials, Licensed Acupuncturist or Doctor of Oriental Medicine. These credentials are only given to people licensed by the State who have completed National Board Certification for Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. These board certifications are only allowed to be taken by those who have either gone to an accredited school or have undertaken an approved apprenticeship, both of which take several years of intense and focused training, and several thousand hours of practice and supervision. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the National Board, has very strict requirements for candidates. The average training for Chiropractors or M.D.’s to preform acupuncture is limited to around 200-400 hours depending on the training and certification. Those preforming dry needling, which is acupuncture with a new name, receive only 45 hours of instruction, none of which needs to be supervised. Aside from certifications, the other issue is practice. If you go to an licensed acupuncturist, that’s what they do all day, every day, they have a lot of hands on practice, they know how, where, why, how deep, and at what angle to place that needle so that it is both effective and safe. If you go to an M.D., Chiropractor, or Physical Therapist that does acupuncture as a small component of the treatments, they simply do not have the same level of experience with acupuncture and this is where injury can occur.
When you are looking for supplements or herbs, it is very important to do some research before you buy or take anything. The biggest issue, as was pointed out in the case in NY were the supplements were recently pulled from the shelves is that supplements and herbs are not required to be regulated by the FDA. This means that companies can pretty much do whatever they want and probably fly under the radar, there is no testing or oversight required before a product goes to market. Most of the rest of the world uses GMP or Good Manufacturing Practices certifications for herbal products to ensure that all herbal products are what they are supposed to be and are free from contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals, as well as free from cross contamination. GMP certified herbs and supplements can be found here in the US, companies are just not required to put their product through such rigors. I would strongly recommend that you only take herbs and supplements that you obtain through either a licensed practitioner who is giving you GMP certified products or a supplier that can ensure their products are GMP certified.
At South Denver Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Clinic, our practitioners are licensed acupuncturists with national board certification by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. We only prescribe GMP certified herbs in our office. This is done not only for quality of your care, but most importantly for your safety.
Please do not take anything in this article as critical of Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Medical Doctors or the western medical community in general, we all have our place in the act of healing and health. All of this is written in the interest of safety for the patient and consumer. You should be able to feel confident that what you are taking is safe and what it is labeled as, and that the person doing a medical procedure on you has the appropriate and adequate training to do it safely and effectively.
You can learn more about acupuncture certification and see if your practitioner is certified by clicking here.
You can learn about GMP certification here.